Nursing homes and assisted living communities have received approximately $14 billion of the $178 billion in the Provider Relief Fund (PRF) established by the CARES Act. This funding has been instrumental for long term care facilities struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic, but the remainder of the funds must be released so providers can continue to provide quality care to the nation’s seniors, according to the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL).
A recent AHCA/NCAL survey found that 92 percent of nursing homes and 62 percent of assisted living communities said the PRF has been helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic. The same survey found facilities continue to face significant ongoing economic challenges.
Only one-quarter of long term care providers were confident they will make it through to next year. Without additional government support, facilities may be forced to close. In fact, a recent AHCA/NCAL analysis found that nearly 2,000 nursing homes could shut their doors for good over the course of the pandemic.
Increased costs from the pandemic for personal protective equipment (PPE), testing, and additional staffing, among other necessities, have put a strain on providers. Coupled with fewer new residents and patients, as well as longstanding Medicaid underfunding, many facilities are struggling to stay afloat. These facilities are home to millions of frail seniors who cannot afford for them to abruptly shut down and be forced to find new care. “
The Provider Relief Fund was a lifesaver for many in long term care last year,” said Mark Parkinson, president and chief executive officer of AHCA/NCAL. “Whether it helped acquire PPE to protect residents and staff from COVID-19 or allowed providers to offer hero pay to workers who went above the call of duty, we are grateful to the federal government for helping us during this historically challenging time.”
While overall the situation has improved, he said, this battle with the virus is not over, and now the sector faces a new battle.
“Our sluggish economic recovery puts thousands of facilities in danger of closing, threatening access to long term care for vulnerable seniors and individuals with disabilities,” he said. “We call on the administration to distribute the remaining aid that was intended for health care providers and help bring stability to our sector, so we can continue serving our residents.”
The PRF aid allows for facilities to offset some of the exorbitant costs of care stemming from the pandemic and relieve some of the burden providers face on a daily basis.
The initial funding in 2020 has been the difference between many facilities closing or being able to stay open, Parkinson said, but in 2021, as the pandemic persists and the economic recovery of the industry is slow, more is needed.
Members of Congress agree that long term care facilities need more federal aid. A letter sent to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) led by Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-Ala.), co-signed by more than 50 Democrat and Republican members of Congress, requested an additional $10 billion from the PRF to be allocated to long term care facilities.
The PRF aid has already made a major impact on facilities across the nation, but the road to recovery does not end here, AHCA/NCAL said. Continued support is needed to win the fight and protect long term care residents and staff. Lawmakers must make long term care a top priority, and that begins with HHS releasing the remainder of the PRF so the nation’s health care heroes can continue serving the nation’s most vulnerable.